Danish Work Culture and Lessons for Office Design

We’ve all heard about hygge, that hard-to-translate Danish concept of coziness, comfort, contentment, belonging and wellbeing. We’ve seen the hygge-themed magazine articles, with their fetching photos of burning candles, comfy sweaters, warm cups of tea and fireside gatherings.

Folks in Denmark sure know how to make things comfortable.

Hygge isn’t the only Danish word without a clear English equivalent. Another one is arbejdsglaede, which translates to “happiness at work.”

Now, if your language has a word for this, then it’s probably something your culture values. And happiness at work is indeed something Denmark has down to a fine art.

Denmark consistently ranks in the top three in the United Nations’ World Happiness Report, which measures countries’ overall happiness levels. On the business front, Denmark also has the most highly satisfied workers, according to the Global Workforce Happiness Index from the consulting firm Universum.

What puts Denmark at No. 1 on this 57-country index? What makes Danish workers so much happier on average than workers in the United States, which ranks 36th? The answer comes down to both systemic and cultural differences, according to a Fast Company analysis.

And while those of us in North America don’t have ready access to the systemic benefits that bring workplace satisfaction in Denmark—like shorter workdays and generous unemployment and paid leave policies—we would do well to embrace the cultural factors that engender workplace happiness.

So how can we apply lessons from Danish work culture to office design? Here are two ideas:

  1. Danish work culture cultivates a healthy work/life balance. Danish companies promote flexible work hours and resist a culture of overwork. This focus on wellbeing is also revealed in beautiful workplace environments that enhance employees’ quality of life. Office environments that reflect the simplicity, functionality and quality of classic Danish design can touch us emotionally and enhance employee engagement.
  2. Danish work culture de-emphasizes barriers between managers and their teams. Companies value employee autonomy and encourage open communication, which creates a strong sense of connection and belonging. This community spirit takes shape in hygge-like settings with a residential sensibility, including comfortable lounges and welcoming tables.

The Danish aesthetic is on full display in our Carl Hansen & Son Collection, featuring the iconic designs of the Hans J. Wegner studio. These exquisite pieces embody an understated interplay of shape, color, material and texture that bring warmth and fine craft to the office.

As companies everywhere look for ways to make their work environments more supportive of employee wellbeing, they can find inspiration in the world’s happiest and “hygge-est” workforce.

For more workplace design ideas, visit our Inspiration Gallery.

Published On: January 15, 2019
Filed under: Design Inspiration

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